Report22 Feb 2014

After Perth victory, Pearson set for title defence in Sopot


Sally Pearson on her way to victory in Perth (© Getty Images)

A touch of hamstring soreness kept Sally Pearson out of a second flat sprint clash with Melissa Breen, but nothing was going to stop the Olympic champion putting down a marker in her flagship hurdles event at the Perth Track Classic on Saturday (22).

Competing over the 100m hurdles for the first time this year, Pearson looked mighty pleased with her performance, letting out a yell of delight as she crossed the line in 12.59. Though tailwinds aided the sprinters throughout the meeting, the women’s hurdles was run into a -0.2m/s headwind.

Pearson is clearly in excellent shape to defend her 60m hurdles title at next month’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland.

Pearson, boasting a personal best of 12.28, said she was surprised at her fast time given it was her first hurdling event of the season.

“It's such a relief,” said Pearson, whose 12.59 is easily her fastest ever season opener.

“I was really worried coming into here – that's why I pulled out of the 100m. I don't think my hamstring's ready to do the double.

“I've got the World Indoor Championships in two weeks, and that's the most important thing.

“I'd rather win a gold medal than run a 100m here. I really want to regain my title.”

Pearson ran 12.86, 12.66 and 12.49 (+0.8) in three lead-up races before winning the indoor gold medal two years ago in Istanbul. She had also raced several times in the flat sprints. She is obviously in just as good shape this time off less racing.

Pearson sticks to hurdles

Two weeks ago Melissa Breen had broken a 20-year-old Australian record in beating Pearson over 100m at the ACT Championships in Canberra. A return clash on Perth’s fast new track had been eagerly anticipated, especially with the warm weather and favourable winds Australia’s western-most state capital city almost invariably provides.

Caution dictated otherwise, however, so Pearson opted not to put her hamstring through multiple warm-ups, races and warm-downs so close to the World Indoor Championships. Her win in the hurdles was never in doubt, but the time was a welcome result. Dogged by hamstring problems throughout last year, her season’s best for 2013 was only 0.09 quicker.

In second place, Shannon McCann, Australian champion last year in Pearson’s absence, improved her best to 13.15.

For her part, Breen won the 100 in 11.31 (1.1m/s) from Ashleigh Whittaker and Toea Wisil of Papua New Guinea.

Mickle eyeing AR at IAAF World Challenge

Throws of 66 metres in Adelaide a week earlier was always going to be a hard act for world silver medallist Kim Mickle and fellow Moscow 2013 finalist Kathryn Mitchell to emulate. But after throwing 63.37m to win in her Perth hometown, Mickle made her intentions for the remainder of the Australian domestic season clear, saying she was desperate to break the Australian record and wanted to do so at the IAAF World Challenge 2014 opener in Melbourne on 22 March.

Mickle’s 63.37m, and two other throws over 62 metres, sufficed to hold off her competition, but improving Canberra thrower Kelsey-Lee Roberts surprised by pushing Mitchell back into third place, 61.99m to 60.42m.

Japan’s Yuki Ebihara could manage no better than 55.46m to take fourth place.

Kuijken and Magut lead the middle-distances

The women’s 1500m saw a clash between Moscow 5000m finalist Susan Kuijken and 1500m finalist Zoe Buckman and it was the longer-distance specialist who produced the superior speed at the end of the shorter distance.

Buckman, Kaila McKnight and Melissa Duncan led at the bell but Kuijken prevailed in the finish, her 4:07.21 putting her a metre or two clear of Buckman (4:07.56) and McKnight (4:07.92). Duncan, who had led the group some 10 metres behind the pacemaker for the first 800m, finished fourth in a personal best of 4:09.13.

Few fast miles have been run in Perth, despite efforts going back to years when John Landy was chasing the first sub-four-minute mile. Mike Hillardt had run the fastest – a 3:58.35 back in 1987 – though the most famous was probably the race in which Merv Lincoln came closer than any man to beating Herb Elliott. Both were timed in 3:59.6 in the February 1958 race, Elliott somehow thrusting his chest through the tape centimetres ahead of his great rival.

James Magut of Kenya and Collis Birmingham tore that history up, however. Ireland’s Paul Robinson (third in 3:59.56) led early, but Birmingham tore into the lead at the bell. But he could not outrun Magut, who was in the lead at the 1500m and went on to win by a stride, 3:53.73 to 3:53.92.

Contrasting fortunes for Merritt and Sanchez

World champion LaShawn Merritt warmed up for three races in Australia with a clear win in the flat 400m in 45.90, drawing Craig Burns to a personal best of 46.21 behind him.

But there was no such joy for Olympic 400m hurdles champion Sanchez, whose loss in the Sydney 2000 Olympic final prompted him to wear a Sydney flashing bracelet in every race until he won the gold medal in Athens four years later.

Sanchez finished a distant fifth in 52.75, more than three seconds behind New Zealand’s Michael Cochrane (49.72).

South Africa’s Simon Magakwe won a double in the men’s sprints, taking the 100m in 10.21 (1.8m/s) and the 200m in 20.58 (1.1m/s).

Len Johnson for the IAAF